“How hard is it to make a field goal, Ostling?” the quarterback said to me in frustration as I tried to block him out. Our team was up big, so the underclassmen were given the opportunity to play. As a sophomore, and back-up kicker, I had one job, and I failed. I shanked not one, and not two, but three extra points in a row in the homecoming game. I felt small. I felt like I was nothing in the world.
I just wanted to hide. The next week at practice my coach expressed his displeasure. “You got to keep your head down and follow through,” he repeated over and over, as it was the main key to my disastrous kicks. And his advice rang through my head the rest of the season. Head down, follow through.
Playoffs started and our team’s starting kicker was struggling. The head coach decided it was best to give the back-up a shot. And that was me. My stomach felt queasy. Nervousness tortured my body. Was I going to embarrass myself again? This question circulated through my mind constantly, reviving the memory of my missed kicks.
Again, I blocked out the flashback, just like the quarterback’s criticism. In order to defeat this thought that had been haunting me, I needed to focus and have confidence. I can keep my head down. I can follow through. I will make this kick. And that I did.
In three games that I kicked in before getting bounced out of the playoffs, I was 100 percent on extra points and stroked a last second field goal to end a half. I kept my head down. I followed through. And yes, I made the kicks. The ability to focus and bounce back has helped me in life. Whether I disappoint my parents or friends, or miss a kick, I think back to what coach told me.
Everybody makes mistakes, it’s human. But not everyone has the resiliency to keep their head down and follow through. That’s the kicker’s job.